Renovation: Paying for Civil Engineer Inspections

Discussion in 'General Home Improvement Discussion' started by johnnymnemonic, Nov 10, 2011.

  1. Nov 10, 2011 #1

    johnnymnemonic

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    Prior to our condo renovation, we hired a civil engineer to produce plans and submit them to the building department in our town. We signed a contract with our engineer for the plans. The plans were approved by the building department on the condition, among others, that the engineer inspect the interim work, I think twice during the renovation.

    The engineer would like us, the owners, to pay for these inspections. There was no mention of inspections in our contract nor do we have any other contracts in place with the engineer. The renovation has begun and the engineer has already been called by the contractor to inspect once.

    My questions here are:
    * is it our responsibility to pay for the engineer's inspections?
    * if not, whose responsibility is it? perhaps the contractor's? or the building department's?
    * can we formally ask the engineer not to perform the second scheduled inspection, so that we don't end up having to pay the engineer?
    * if the law doesn't say anything about responsibility, who normally pays for these things?

    What are your thoughts or experience with this kind of stuff? We're in Westchester County in NY.
     
  2. Nov 10, 2011 #2

    joecaption

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    Must be totaly differant there. Once the plans have been submited and approved and paid for I see no reason he should have to be called in agin unless there a problum with the plans. The only person the inspecter should have to deal with is the contractor, and only then if he's not following the plans they have already approved.
    Just what are you doing in a simple job condo that would have needed calling in an engineer?
     
  3. Nov 10, 2011 #3

    nealtw

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    Up here we draw up the plans and submit them to the city. If the limits on beams are being stretched or things like that, the city will require an engineer be involved and then he would have to inspect that part of thr job. The city inspects the rest. It is an extra charge that the home owner pays for.
    I would go talk to city and find out what they need, Unless you are making major structural changes, it dosn't make sense.
     
  4. Nov 10, 2011 #4

    BridgeMan

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    Ah, yes, those pesky engineers who expect to be paid for their time! Some nerve, huh?

    All teasing aside (I'm a licensed P.E., multiple states), it would behoove you to spend a few dollars, enabling the engineer to ensure that the work is being performed to his (and subsequently, your) satisfaction. Especially since those were the terms specified by the building department. Your engineer is familiar with the project, and best able to determine that things will be done in an appropriate manner. If he finds only one instance of faulty workmanship of a critical element, or inappropriate materials being used, the few hundred dollars you've paid him will be just a very small fraction of what you will have to pay later to have the faulty work/materials corrected.

    When I was actively self-employed, I encountered a similar scenario on a Colorado building retrofit project for a subdivision's management agency (Metro). After a very thorough field review and analysis of what the building needed, I worked up and stamped the plans, which were approved by the County Building Department. I had made it clear to Metro that any field inspections they or the Building Department wanted would be done at reduced cost to them (offered a 25% break off my normal hourly rate), but they chose not to request any inspection service while the work was performed. And, you guessed it, shortly after the work had been completed, I received a call from the Metro Manager, asking if I'd be willing to come over and "talk about" a number of things that had obviously been done incorrectly, and asking if I could suggest the best ways to make corrections. When I explained that I had too many paying projects to take off from to work for free, he was not happy, and said their project budget had already been depleted. Never did find out how they resolved the problems .
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2011
  5. Nov 11, 2011 #5

    inspectorD

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    I have to gree with Bridgeman on this one....pay now, or pay later. It's your biggest investment.
     
  6. Nov 11, 2011 #6

    johnnymnemonic

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    Thanks guys. Will do. I guess I just didn't like how the add'l cost sneaked up on me. Had I known it upfront, I may have shopped differently for an engineer. It's a hidden cost, right?
     
  7. Nov 11, 2011 #7

    nealtw

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    It may be the best money spent on the whole project.
     
  8. Nov 11, 2011 #8

    BridgeMan

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    I think the only "sneaking up on you" was done by your building department, when they demanded the engineer perform field inspections instead of their own personnel doing them (as is usually the case for permit work--maybe an explanation is due from the building department, describing exactly why they wanted an engineer to do their work). I'm curious as to exactly what you had the engineer do for you.

    And I suspect if you look carefully at the contract you signed with the engineer, there will be detailed wording describing the exact services he was to perform for you under that agreement. Along with a brief mention regarding additional charges for any services beyond the scope of the original contract.
     
  9. Nov 14, 2011 #9

    johnnymnemonic

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    Then maybe the building department isn't really sneaking up on me, and they are merely saying that an engineer must bless the work. This in turn would mean that it's the contractor's responsibility to hire an engineer to inspect the work. That the contractor called the engineer who came up with the plans could be just a coincidence.

    I will discuss with the building department and see what comes up. I'll try to also keep you posted for the benefit of this thread.
     
  10. Nov 14, 2011 #10

    oldognewtrick

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    Seems to me that the engineer fulfilled the work that you paid him for. If additional services are required, he should be compensated for his time and knowledge. If you didn't negotiate this before hand, this isn't his problem. If the building dept required additional visits from the engineer and you didn't relay this to the engineer, the toothpaste is out of the tune.

    Who initially contracted with the engineer, you or your contractor?
     
  11. Nov 14, 2011 #11

    BridgeMan

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    And for the benefit of this thread, I'll ask you (again) if you'd be willing to share with us exactly what type of plans you requested the engineer draw up. And yes, please share also the reasons given by the building department for their personnel not being able to perform the inspections.
     
  12. Nov 15, 2011 #12

    johnnymnemonic

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    Building dept was closed yesterday (go figure).

    oldog/newtrick: I, the owner, contacted the engineer.

    I will pay the engineer, but I don't like the surprise cost. As suggested by you guys, I still want to know who neglected to communicate properly here (I'm sure the engineer knew inspections are required in my village; it's not the first time he's done plans there or even in my condo complex, but maybe the building department is also at fault). I'll keep you posted.

    Thanks for your involvement, you're a precious resource as we try to keep our finger on the pulse of this renovation.
     
  13. Nov 28, 2011 #13

    johnnymnemonic

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    The latest here...

    I left the engineer a voice mail, got back a voice mail explaining that he does this because the building department requires him to do so. He also explained again that he needs to be paid for his time, normally $200/hour.

    Anyway, also talked to the building department, and the assistant there said that yes the engineer would do the inspections when the BD inspector was not available. WHEN is a key word here, but she didn't go into details and I've been told before not to get on the bad side of the building department. When asked whether I need to pay the engineer when they have him inspect, she said that this was between me and the engineer.

    Talk about lazy state workers...

    Since I posted this thread, the engineer has done a second inspection, and my contractor claims he told my wife, but she doesn't remember. Whom do I believe here now?

    I really feel like I should fire them on the spot. Am I being unreasonable to do so?
     
  14. Nov 28, 2011 #14

    BridgeMan

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    Yikes, a civil engineer at $200 an hour? Are you sure he's not a lawyer?

    As an independent civil, I've never charged more than $50 an hour (unless it's litigation consulting, in which case it goes up considerably). And even then, a few clients have grumbled about my rates.
     
  15. Nov 29, 2011 #15

    johnnymnemonic

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    Life in southern NY state.
     
  16. Jun 29, 2012 #16

    johnnymnemonic

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    oldog/newtrick: we (homeowners) made initial contact with the engineer.

    The engineer made a few visits and we invited him to help with a final inspection, without trying to push the building department. He was more than accommodating with his fees and we paid him in full. Final forms pending.
     
  17. Jun 29, 2012 #17

    nealtw

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    Johnny; I'm with you, I hate surprizes. Surprizes just leave a bad taste in your mouth but the hole system is set up that way. The contractor has to price in some surprizes he's going to run into but often just skims over things the homeowner will have to pay for because he wants as much of your budget he can get.
    We often push for the engineer because the look at more things than the city does and we know the job is right when it's done. All engineers are not equal, some will quote a lower total cost for the whole job which includes three inspections, then they have extra charges for a question on the phone or they find silly reasons for having to come back for extra inspection.
     

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